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Helping Toddlers Learn About Reading and the Alphabet

A love for reading begins with the parent matching the books to the child’s interests and level of development. Just as the child’s reactions to books changes—so should the selection of the books and the adult’s story reading behaviors.

The first experiences begin with the parent reading to the unborn child–the soothing tones and inflections do stimulate the baby.

Reading should occur everyday in the baby’s life. Tana Hoban has some wonderful books that are visually stimulating to the newborn—in black and white, with accordian pages that can be placed standing next to the baby (black and white contrasts are the most recognizable,  stimulating illustrations to babies).

Those nursery rhymes we all heard, seem to be even more important now. We have research that indicates a child’s ability to hear and distinguish sounds (phonemic awareness) is the best predictor for success in reading. So a rhyming book serves several purposes—it is fun, words rhyme, and often the child remembers the text.

Older infants and young toddlers seem to gravitate to books that are photographs of other babies and/or familiar items.

Cardboard books are in abundance, but not all of them are for toddlers. Publishers seem to be ‘cashing in’ on the format with texts that are too difficult for the toddler to understand. So care should be taken in picking out books with fairly simple text.

It is important to establish routine book reading times, often prior to nap or bedtime. Sometimes toddlers want to jump ahead in the book—-so parents need to ‘go with the flow’ and follow the child’s lead. Other times toddlers want several books read at one time.

Predictable books seem to be a favorite with older toddlers and preschoolers. And books can be predictable by repeated text phrases or sequences. Some outstanding ones that come to mind are Bill Martin’s Brown Bear, Brown Bear, Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Catepillar, and Mem Fox’s Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes.

Storytime should be pleasurable for both the parent and toddler. Sometimes I wonder how many times a toddler can possibly want to hear a favorite book read again, and again, and again.

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